The emergency is not over

Heidi L. EverettEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment

How many deaths can we tolerate?

Minnesota’s Covid-19 death toll will soon pass 2,000. Nationwide, we’ve tolerated 200,000 deaths and about 1,000 Americans continue to die each day.

Imagine if a tornado wiped out one of the Minnesota cities with about 2,000 residents such as Nisswa, Hinckley or Aitkin. How would we react? Since the pandemic set in, an average of 11 Minnesotans have died each day. 

Daily reports of new deaths often mention the majority of Covid-19 fatalities – about 73 percent – are residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. More than 85 percent of deaths are people age 65 or older. Highlighting these statistics implies the deaths of older, sicker people are less of a concern than young people. Gen Xers mockingly call the pandemic the “boomer remover.”

States and cities that ignored science and rushed to open too soon paid with rising case counts, deaths and a return to even more restrictive measures. Minnesota didn’t follow that politically driven path. Our Covid-19 deaths have leveled off with deaths in the single digits. Apparently that’s how many deaths we can tolerate.

Minnesota Republicans ARE ready to tolerate more. They have criticized the state’s enforcement of rules for bars and restaurants and continually vote to end the governor’s emergency powers, claiming the emergency is over.

Last week, state inspectors visited 167 bars and restaurants in southern Minnesota and found nearly half were out of compliance with safety requirements such as staff not wearing masks or tables too close to allow for social distancing.

Investigations linked about 1,200 infections to identified outbreaks in bars and restaurants.

Educating noncompliant owners and patrons is the state’s goal, though officials have the added incentive of enforcement actions and financial penalties, said Booker Hodges, assistant commissioner for public safety, according to a StarTribune report.

“When we go out to bars and restaurants to observe, our goal isn’t to hammer people,” Hodges said.

Republican legislators, though, see the effort differently. In a statement last week a number of legislators called the state’s efforts “heavy-handed.”

The statement continued, “We are troubled by the threatening tone of the letter when considering the administration’s previously stated goal that compliance checks would be ‘educational’ in nature and not punitive. Instead, you are weaponizing state agencies and threatening businesses with fines, closures and investigations at a time when so many are struggling just to keep their doors open. Since the onset of the pandemic, businesses have been doing their best to comply with your administration’s complicated, burdensome, and ever-changing executive orders and mandates.”

The Republicans’ stand does not match the facts and the inspections need to continue. Several Central Minnesota establishments are openly defying the rules and others have been tagged by the state.

Here’s what you can do to help:

• Follow the rules. Inspectors observed in some situations, businesses were making efforts to follow guidance requirements, but customers were not doing their part to protect worker safety and public health. Customers who refuse to wear masks and ignore social distancing guidelines by moving tables and chairs to accommodate larger groups jeopardize the operations of these businesses.

• If you visit a bar or restaurant and you don’t feel safe because staff and patrons are not following the rules, leave. On your way out, tell a manager why you’re leaving.

• When you get home, tell your friends. Share your experience on social media.

• Visit the state’s Covid-19 website, staysafe.mn.gov and report the offenders.

-• Republican politicians that with hundreds of people getting sick each day and people dying, the emergency is not over.

“Give me liberty AND give me death” is not a winning slogan.

Author: Heidi L. Everett

Heidi joined The Newsleaders Oct. 30, 2020 after being a fan of the St. Joseph edition for 15 years. When she is not sharing local news and stories, she is a professor of strategic communications at St. Cloud State University.

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